Archive for the ‘THEATRE’ Category

“Les MIserables”–review of Broadway touring company   1 comment

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In 1862 Victor Hugo’s epic novel “Les Miserables” was published and though I never read it I did see a movie version in 1952 so the first time I saw the  musical stage version in 2000 I was familiar with the story. I didn’t expect to be so emotionally involved but here it is 19 years later and it still moves me. 

 
In addition to seeing the stage version I also saw the 2012 movie based on the musical a few times and can’t recall how many times I have listened to the 25th anniversary concert album and still the songs like “On My Own”, “Who Am I”, “I Dreamed A Dream”, “Bring Him Home”  and “Soliloquy”, among others, seem as fresh as the first time I heard them and still can bring tears to the eyes. 

 
Production values are very important to a story but in a show that is sung through such as “Les Miserables” the voices are more important than the costumes, lighting and/or set designs and this  show has all that but, more important, it has a cast that gives it their best and they are excellent. 

 
Briefly the story is about Jean Valjean, whom we meet just as he is being released from prison after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread and trying to escape, who now starts a journey to redeem himself while being hounded by Inspector Javert  who he is paroled to but eventually eludes. 

Valjean makes the lives better of those he meets along the way and we become involved in all their stories just as we become involved  with the upcoming French Revolution and the young people caught up in it. 

Nick Cartell  as Jean Valjean gets sustained applause for his moving “Bring Him Home” and “Who Am I?” while Josh Davis     as Inspector Javert takes charge of the stage in both “Stars” and “Soliloquy”.  Matt Shinghledecker as Enjolras leads the company in the rousing first act curtain “One Day More” just as Marius, played by Joshua Grosso, gets across the sadness of “Empty Chairs, Empty Tables”. Paige Smallwood as Eponine stops the show singing the haunting “On My Own” and Mary Kate Moore   as Fantine makes “I Dreamed A Dream” sounds as fresh as if it was being sung for the first time by anyone. The ensemble makes the songs “Do You Hear The People Sing”, “The People’s Song” and the finale of “One Day More” the anthems of a revolution as strong and meaningful as they should be. 

The music by Claude Schonberg with a French language libretto by Alain Boublil translated into English with the lyrics of Herbert Kretzmer is moving, funny, soaring when it has to and becomes quiet sometimes at moments when you least expect it but the music at all times serves the story of “Les Miserables” as does the cast and the production. 

The cast numbering more than 30, including 5 children, earned the well-deserved ovation the audience gives them when they take their curtain calls. 

“Les Miserables” is  playing at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts until October 20 and whether you are seeing for the first time or the fifth time I suggest you get tickets now for this production! 

Act 1  1 hour and 30 minutes   20 minute intermission   Act 2 1 hour and 5 minutes  Total  2 hours and 55 minutes   Gun shots, strobe lights, smoke

 
 

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“Anastasia”–touring company review   1 comment

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One of the joys of theatre-going is the occasional surprise that makes you hold your breath and feel as if you are the only one experiencing what is happening on stage and tonight, at the opening of “Anastasia” at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, it happened when Beth Stafford Laird, as the title character, sang “In My Dreams”. I don’t know if the other over 2,000 people in the audience even knew that she was an understudy for the lead who couldn’t go on tonight but it didn’t make a difference because we all fell in love with her. Playing Anya, who may or may not be the only surviving member of her Russian Imperial Romanov family consisting of her father, mother, 3 sisters and a brother all who were killed by the Bolsheviks when she was 17 in 1917.
 
We follow her life when she is found in 1927 as a woman who has no recollection of her previous life and is making a living sweeping the streets in St. Petersburgh. There have been many rumors that the youngest daughter had survived and many were impersonating her in order to cash in on the riches her grandmother the Dowager Empress, now living in Paris, has.
 
Two con men audition many girls to be Anastasia, finally deciding that Anya has ‘something’ that will work and they go about teaching her, yet there is something in Anya that makes her believe she really is the granddaughter of the Empress.
 
Based on two movies, one an animated film, it is an easy enough story to follow and has many stereotyped characters but Beth Stafford Laird makes you believe in her so the story works. It certainly helps that she has a voice that reaches up to the rafters but you also see her gain strength as she believes in herself more and more.
 
Tari Kelly and Edward Staudenmayer take stock musical characters and bring them the freshness and fun they require while Stephen Brower as one of the con men, and a love interest for Anya, has a strong voice and an earnestness the role requires. Jason Michael Evans has a very underwritten role that leaves you wondering whether he is an alternative love for Anya or villain out to get her.  His singing of 2 solos, plus duets and ensemble pieces, soars over the auditorium. Joy Franz as the Dowager Empress shows the steel and softness the woman is called upon to show to whomever she is facing.
 
The book by Terrence McNally, the music by Stephen Flaherty and the lyrics by Lynn Ahrens do their job but words must be said about the projection designs by Aaron Rhyne that have set a high standard for part of theatre productions today.  The musicians under the direction of Lawrence Goldberg give the singers a chance to be heard by not overwhelming them but underscoring them.
 
I walked away from this production hoping that Beth Stafford Laird will be returning to Fort Lauderdale soon in another show!
 
“Anastasia” will be playing at the Broward Center until May 5. The show runs 2 hours and 35 minutes with a 20-minute intermission.
 
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“Dear Evan Hansen”–Nation Tour Review   Leave a comment

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You hear a lot about the 1% wealthy and the 99% rest regarding money but the same figures could be applied to anyone who has ever gone to high school with the figures being 1% who were happy and 99% rest of us.  In “Dear Evan Hansen” we deal with 5 teenagers in the latter category.
 
Evan Hansen’s father left 10 years ago and his mother Heidi is going to night school to become a paralegal and works during the day as a nurse’s aide leaving little time for her son. Evan sees a therapist regarding his social anxiety who assigns him to write letters to himself and this leads to the story.
 
Ben Levi Ross is phenomenal as Evan Hansen with a voice that filled the Broward auditorium and hanging on to every word when he went soft. As his mother, Jane Pfitsch, moving throughout, really got the tears flowing with “So Big/So Small”. Along the way we meet and get to know 4 other teenagers from Connor, played by Marrick Smith, who is an addict and bother of Zoe, (Maggie McKenna), along with Alana, (Phoebe Koyabe) and Jared (Jared Goldsmith), who offer some comic relief but are just like Evan, wanting to be heard and seen through any means. The other two members of the cast are Aaron Lazar and Christiane Noll as the parents of Connor and Zoe.
 
All 8 actors have perfect voices, move fluidly around the stage and are so subtle in their actions you forget they are actors! As heralded as the original New York production was/is I would match this cast against them and it would probably become a tie.
 
The book was written by Steven Levenson and music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, which will bring you to tears, provide a few laughs and, maybe, realize how hard this world is for a teenager. Pasek and Paul also wrote the music and lyrics for “The Greatest Showman” and listening to the “Dear Evan Hansen” broadcast album, which won a Grammy, is as moving as the stage production. You will be humming many of the songs after hearing them either on the stage or the album.
 
Talking about the stage production between the Scenic Designer, David Korins, and the projection designs by Peter Negrini portray the world of technology that we, and especially teenagers, are caught up in today. Pardon the pun but the  Lighting design by Japhy Weideman is spot on and impressive.
 
This is definitely a show for all teenagers to help them realize that they are not alone, not invisible and for all adults who may have forgotten the pain of being a teenager.
 
“Dear Evan Hansen” is playing at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts until April 7. With a 20 minute intermission, the show is 2 hours and 45 minutes.
 
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Posted March 28, 2019 by greatmartin in THEATRE, THEATRE REVIEW, Uncategorized

Crying too much–and who is Nathan Gunn   Leave a comment

Someday I’ll have to dig into why I am such a crier!!! (but not today!!)
 
I bought the fire stick Tobisha  TV and with thousands of channels since there wasn’t anything on TV I wanted to watch tonight I decided to ask Alexa “Musicals” and she took me to so many I was in theatre and/or movie heaven!!!
 
It is no secret that “A Chorus Line” is in my top 5 musicals of all time but can you guess the other 4?? In any case I remember going to see “Carousel” in the 1940s and wanting to be John Raitt—of course, I couldn’t sing–couldn’t carry a tune–but he destroyed me in the “Soliloquy” and every time I have seen the show (and even the movie) I fall completely  apart.
 
As I was going over the list of musicals to watch I came across a PBS tape of “Carousel” with the  NY Philharmonic and starring Kelli O’Hara who I really only knew from a PBS taping of “South Pacific”, Jessie Mueller who I know starred in “Beautiful” but we saw her sister in the touring show and I didn’t catch the male lead’s name until I saw him in the opening number and he didn’t look familiar so I went back and replayed the opening credits. (Oh I might add, I thought this might be the Hugh Jackman version—nope, it wasn’t Hugh!) There was a name, Nathan Gunn, that I didn’t recognize and when I saw him I didn’t know who he was! In any case, he knocked “Soliloquy” out of the ballpark along with everything else he did.
 
All I know is that I haven’t seen a production of the show in decades and by the time they took their bows I was in a puddle of tears–guess I will be watching it again. Oh yes, it was good seeing John Cullum as the starkeeper.
 
And since I’m in a puddle of tears—because I can’t stand the movie version of “A Chorus Line”–I decided to watch “Every Little Step” and right now they are showing a clip of Sammy Williams doing the Paul monologue—more tears!—and the auditions of Paul for the revival. And there is the line that destroys me all 101+ times I have seen it on stage and the 4 times I have seen the guys auditioning for the role in “Every Little Step” and now there is Donna talking about Cassie—ARGH!!!  They are showing her dancing in the role at the Shubert!! And I’m holding my breath!
 
What makes me such an easy touch???
 
Ending on a ‘fun’ note–can you guess the other 3 shows in my top 5? Actually, there are 10 as there is a 5-6 way tie for number 5!
 
 
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 Nathan Gunn                Kelli O’Hara

 

Posted March 23, 2019 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, LIFE, THEATRE, Uncategorized

“The King and I”–touring company review   Leave a comment

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When a show is perfect all you can do is praise every part of the production and this Broadway revival of 2015, now at the Broward Performing Arts Center, is perfect.

Rodgers and Hammerstein have written many award-winning musicals but their music (Rodgers) and lyrics (Hammerstein) for “The King and I” are one of their best without one single less than memorable song from “I Whistle A Happy Tune”, “We Kiss In A Shadow”, “Hello Young Lovers”, “A Puzzlement”, “Something Wonderful” to the moment of emotion that brings everything together in “Shall We Dance” and that Is only part of the score. Imagine being moved by children marching on stage as you will be during “March of the Siamese Children”.

The book, written by Hammerstein, based on the novel Anna and The King of Siam by Margaret Landon, is strong dealing with race, gender, sex, love, and politics among other subjects with both humor and drama.

The choreography by Christopher Gattelli, based on the original work of Jerome Robbins, melds with the restaging by Shelley Butler of the 2015 revival by Bartlett Sher becoming one. The sets by Michael Yeargan, with one exception which isn’t noticeable if you didn’t see this in Miami in 2017, along with the costumes by Catherine Zuber add to each scene.

The most important assets to “The King and I” are the performers of music and with Angela Baumgardner as Anna and Pedro Kaawaloa as the King both making their national tour debuts in the roles it is like discovering gold on the stage of the Broward Performing Arts Center with both singing, acting and dancing without a flaw. Just hearing her sing “Hello Young Lovers” will bring tears to your eyes in the reprise while you will be laughing at her rendition of “Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?”. Kaawaloa had the audience in the palm of his hand singing “A Puzzlement” and in his heart as he dances with Anna to “Shall We Dance?”.

As hard as it is to stand out as a singer with this group Paulina Yeung as Tuptim singing “We Kiss in a Shadow” and “I Have Dreamed” whether with Dongwoo Kang as Lun Tha, her secret lover, or a solo has a soaring pure voice that will make you melt. Deanna Choi as the King’s head wife, Lady Thiang, singing “Something Wonderful” will make you swear that Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote it just for her to sing.

The ensemble ranging from the young Royal Children who are the definition of cute to the King’s heir apparent plus the Royal Wives along with Hayden Bercy as Anna’s son and others playing adult roles are just right.

There can’t be enough praise for the 16 involved in “The Small House Of Uncle Thomas” ballet while the same can be said of the orchestra under the direction of Conductor David Aaron Brown.

This touring company of “The King and I” is a must-see of this season and will be playing at Broward Center for the Performing Arts until December 2.

Playing time is 2 hours and 50 minutes with a 20-minute intermission and started at exactly 8 PM.

Posted November 22, 2018 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, THEATRE, THEATRE REVIEW

“Hello Dolly”–touring company review   1 comment

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With lines such as ‘spreading money around like manure so young things can grow’ and songs like the title tune plus “Before the Parade Passes By” from its original opening on Broadway in 1964 starring Carol Channing to its recent sold-out revival starring Bette Midler the only question people are asking is whether Betty Buckley is up to carrying on the legend of Dolly Levi in “Hello Dolly” and, folks, she makes the role her own!

Whether Ms. Buckley is singing out loud and clear to the last row in the balcony or bringing a tear to your and in the next moment making you laugh out loud as her song says, “It’s so nice to have you back where you belong”!

The next question is about the others on stage and the complete production itself which can be answered easily with that if you never see “Hello Dolly” again you know you have seen it on stage giving you all the show has to give.

Jerry Herman, writer of music and lyrics to such shows as “Mame”, “La Cage aux Folles” among others, gives his all to “Hello Dolly” and it is a classic of Broadway musical history. You have a feeling that Thornton Wilder, who wrote the original play “The Matchmaker” which the show is based on, wouldn’t have a single complaint with Michael Stewart who wrote the book for the musical.

Jerry Zaks, who directed the revival, kept the high standard of the Broadway show for the touring company. Warren Carlyle choreographed the musical basing it on Gower Champion’s original work but not imitating it. The costumes by Santo Loquasto add sparkle and color to somewhat drab settings.

For the supporting cast Lewis J. Stadlien is an excellent comic foil for Buckley while Jess LeProtto is a first-rate comic as the clerk Barnaby and even better dancer. Nic Rouleau, as Cornelius, who takes Barnaby on an adventure to New York so both can have their first kiss though he is 16 years older than the latter has the charm of innocence and a beautiful voice that makes “It Only Take A Moment” as fresh and as feeling as it was 54 years ago. Analisa Leaming though a widow and certainly more experienced than Cornelius conveys an innocence on par with him and when she joins him singing about that moment everyone believes in love again. Leaming has a sweet, beautiful memorable voice, especially when singing “Ribbons Down My Back”.

The rest of the cast deliver the goods but it is in their singing, dancing and strutting to “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” that you realize how much they add to an already winning show.

With a cast of 33 and an orchestra of 17 musicians conducted by Robert Billig the show is a must see and Betty Buckley brings emotions to Dolly Levi that makes the audience love her and give her the ovations she deserves.

“Hello Dolly” is only playing until Sunday so treat yourself to a memorable Thanksgiving by getting to the Arsht Center before it leaves.

“Hello Dolly” runs 2 hours and 30 minutes including a 15 minute intermission.

Posted November 21, 2018 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, THEATRE, THEATRE REVIEW

May 2018 Photo Diary Part 3 The Arts   Leave a comment

 

 

 

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